Christmas Evil AKA You Better Watch Out (1980, USA)

The creator: Writer-director Lewis Jackson, who seemingly made nothing else, ever.

The plot: On December 24, 1949, little Harry Stadling is traumatised to see Mommy getting it on with Santa Claus. 31 years later, the Christmas-obsessed Harry (Brandon Maggart), newly promoted to a management position at the Jolly Dream toy factory, is a right creepy old elf, keeping meticulous Good/Bad books on the children in his neighborhood and silently seething at anyone who doesn't have what he considers to be a sufficient level of Christmas cheer. On Christmas Eve, he dons a home-made Santa suit, steals as many toys as he can carry from work, and travels across town bringing toys to children, celebrating with the adults he finds in good spirits, and killing people who wrong him. The next day, he runs afoul of a lynch mob out for the blood of this mysterious Santa Killer, confesses his sins to his brother (Jeffrey DeMunn) and drives his van off an overpass, and flies it into the night sky. I'm sorry, I mean he drives his van off an overpass, and flies it into the night sky. Wait, I did have it right the first time. Fuck.

Christmas cheer: Overwhelming. "A man who is so horrified to learn that Santa doesn't exist that he dresses as Santa to kill people?" How does it get more festive than that?

Type of horror: Character study of a psycho, though calling it a "horror" film is reaching.

The good: The constant loopy tone. Even before it's jaw-dropping ending, Christmas Evil has indulged in a great deal of silliness, most of it centered on Harry, who with his gleeful naïvete about Christmas and frequent silent mugging to the camera comes off a little bit like Rowan Atkinson's Mr. Bean. It's stupid, but too agreeably weird to dismiss out of hand. Also, a horror film of this era not defaulting to straight-up slasher tropes? That's worth praising.

The bad: For someone we spend almost 90 minutes watching, we never have a very good sense of what actually makes Harry tick. Why did he finally act on his long-standing impulses this Christmas? We never know. The film takes ages to start up anything like a plot, and when it finally does, it keeps stalling out on repetitive scenes that go nowhere and take up too much time, most notably in an endless scene of Harry trying to go down a chimney and getting himself stuck. Torn between depicting Harry's spree as the outburst of a deranged, almost subhuman mind, and the tragic acts of a man who was never able to grow up.

Blood: Very little, and it's shot in quick, elliptical cuts that scream "we're trying to hide a prosthetic head!"

Boobs: None. Indeed, the sex is so chaste in this film as to be non-existent.

Sex=death: Not as such, but Harry obviously has some sexual hang-ups, and witnessing a sex act is what initially drives him mad. But that's not what we usually mean.

Body count: Four, and somehow it seems like fewer.

Sign it was 1980: As Harry watches the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, we hear the announcer excitedly mention that a balloon of the Hamburger Helper talking glove is coming down the street.

Pithy wrap-up: The film can never decide if it's a horror picture or a psycho-thriller, but it doesn't matter: either way it's boring as hell. A better actor than Maggart might have been able to make the script seem interesting, but I kind of doubt it.